Friday, January 23

Build review: Revell’s Airbus A400M Atlas in 1/144th scale

Revell have been making some nice new tooled kits – and Nic wanted to take on the mighty Airbus A400 in minuscule 1/144th scale – and even then it is BIG! See what he thought of the kit in today’s build review…

Review: 1/144 scale Airbus A400M “Atlas”
Kit n° : 04859
Kit Type: Injection moulded
Scale: 1/144
Sprues: 6 styrene + 1 clear
Part count: 151
Decals for 3 markings:
c/n 0018 – German Air Force, LTG 62, Wunstorf 2014;
c/n 0006 – Airbus 2013;
c/n 0008 – Armée de l’Air “Ville de Toulouse” 2014.

Carrying the weight of the world: 1/144th scale Airbus A400M “Atlas”

For a long time, all the models I built were in 1/32. And I was having myself a good time! And then, this guy from TMN contacted me and asked if I was interested in building a kit every now and then for his website. Sure, he seemed to be nice and the first one I did was in 1/32. The second was in 1/48. And it wasn’t long before the first 1/72 aircraft arrived. Really? I mean that’s small compared to what I was used to! And as if that wasn’t enough, I got a 1/144 kit in the mail... Even before I opened the box, I thought this would hardly be possible to see, deprived of any detail! But I was wrong ... of course!
It was Revell’s A400M Atlas that was the unlucky victim of my hesitation. Pulling a face, I went through the sprues and was surprised: this kit looked actually quite nice.
Quickly cutting of the fuselage and wing parts, fit seemed to be good and the size, well roughly the same as a Bf-109 in 1/32. Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all...
Around this time Guillaume - another modeller of our Belgian gang – started the construction of one of these models as well. Working in the Transport Wing himself, he decided to build his A400M the way it would look when in service with Belgian Airforce.  He was able to make some photos of the real thing, when it visited the airbase where he works!
The A400M is one of those projects that make people think “Yeah sure, It’ll be around eventually”. The development of this aircraft started about 35 years ago and only now the first few are delivered. Where are the days that it took aircraft manufacturers less than a year to design, build and fly a plane, right?
Photo: Airbus Military
The A400M has been ordered by quite a few countries, with the UK, Germany and France being the main clients. Belgium ordered 7, but it’ll be at least 3 more years before one will be seen operational. Here are a few of Guillaume’s walk-around photos:
This Revell kit offers decals for an operational German or French Atlas, as well as a test bird from Airbus. I wanted to build a “used” one and somehow, the French A400M seamed the most logic one to me.
This kit allows you to build the internal structure, but being in a bit of a grumpy mood, I didn’t. Snap and glue: that’s what I did.

See how nice the internal structure fits?
I gave the cockpit a little paint, but hardly anything can be seen of it when finished. I have to say that the fit of the parts was perfect: the fuselage closed without the slightest problem, even though the fit is tight. The plan indicates that you need to add weight to the kit to prevent it from being a tail sitter. So, in my hurry, I filled the nose and the front of the cargo bay with old metal bolts. Sure enough, it wouldn’t be a tail sitter, but the weight was too much for the tiny nose gear part which snapped several times! Bright, huh?
Here are the wings of Guillaume’s Atlas glued. Just make sure you don’t mix up the parts!
The wings went on like a glove, as did the engines, each consisting of 10 parts. The hinge mechanisms underneath the wings fit well, but you have to look for the parts on the sprues: parts 29, 30, 31 and 32 are on sprue A (not B as indicated in the instructions) and 34, 35, 36,37 and 38 on sprue B (and not A as Revell states).

Here’s mine with the engines done:
Propellers in feathered position, carefully cut off the sprue.
You get the propellers in two positions: normal and feathered. Eager to do the latter, I cut the first one of the sprue, only to snap it into pieces while cleaning it. Have ... to ... be ... more ... careful...! So, normal props it was from then on for me! Guillaume was a lot more careful and cleaned the feathered ones (8 blades each) patiently. Here’s a photo he made showing the 1/144 one next to a 1/72 scale one:
Before you can get to the painting stage, you have to build the main gear. Because of the scale, these parts are really fragile. The kit grew on me, so I went easy. Take your time, these parts are really tiny! The wheels on the other hand all had nasty sink marks. I had to fill them all (grrrr....) – not the best part of this kit.
With the fuselage parts in place, the kit needed a little putty. Now, I don’t think it’s because of sloppy engineering; I just went too fast on this build and didn’t dry fit enough. Not my scale, you see?
The engine-to-wing joints need a little putty.
A little Revell Masking tape for the windscreen...
With the putty done and the kit polished, it was time to get the paint out.
I used 5 or 6 shades of grey to paint my Atlas. A little free hand shading, a couple of panels masked with Revell tape... she sure started to look nice by now.
I could hardly wait to get some future on to do the decals. Those went on like all Revell decals: without any trouble. Some of the grey decals can hardly be seen on the paint, but I guess that’s the point, right? After another coat of brushed on future, a wash was applied with Winsor & Newton Mars Black water colour.
I brought on quite a bit of water colour paint with a normal brush and let the paint dry completely. Looks pretty bad, huh?
With a damp tissue, I started to remove most of it.
Here she is with all the wash done. Still need to paint the nose though, but with some flat varnish it will look even better...
Masking the nose ...
Some more weathering to the underside of the wings...
Now it was time for the details: painting the props and the nose, gluing a ton of tiny antennas and 14 wheels. The props need some careful clean-up, well worth the effort.
Once done; here she was: a finished A400M. I have to admit: this is a very nice looking kit indeed! I wasn’t expecting that and didn’t take the kit serious enough – sorry about that – but Revell impressed me with this kit. It is nicely detailed, has well done recessed panel lines and offers a lot of options.
This really is a good kit: easy for the beginner, not too small, not too big and a good base for the experienced modeller. And a good kit for modellers that want to try out an airbrush for the first time: only black and grey are needed! 
Guillaume finished his Atlas with self-made Belgian markings.
Yep, I like it – can’t believe I’m saying this – and can even see a diorama with a helicopter being unloaded! Just a pity of those wheels, but maybe I was just unlucky.
This kit gets me into trouble though... if I start building 1/144 scale kits too, I need another cabinet! Especially since so many nice aircraft come into view: C-17, B-2, Bear, An-124...

Thanks to Revell for sending this most enjoyable kit for review! And thanks to Guillaume for sending me his photos of the real machine and his built Atlas in Belgian colours!

Nicolas Deboeck

Revell model kits are available from all good toy and model retailers. For further information visit